V.C. Andrews' gives 'Orphans' no happy ending

I became a fan of V.C. Andrews when I first started reading the "Casteel" series, and I have recently read some of the more recent books published under her name. The most recent of these being "Orphans," which takes four miniseries and combines them into one full-length volume.

"Orphans" shows that life is horrible at an orphanage, but then a family adopts you and all that is expected is warmth, love and happiness. Not necessarily, as these four stories demonstrate that having a family is not as perfect as it is made out to be.

The novel begins with the story of Janet, titled "Butterfly." Janet is the small, timid girl in the orphanage who is adopted by Celine and Sanford, who have a wonderful home and perfect life. Sanford owns his own glass factory, and Celine was a dedicated ballerina until Sanford had too much to drink and got in an automobile accident, which left Celine paralyzed. Celine is now determined to make Janet, who has had no dance training, into the ballerina that she was before the accident. Celine gets Janet one of the strictest dance instructors and has her fitted for pointe shoes before her first formal ballet lesson. Definitely a story for those who appreciate happy beginnings and sad endings.

The second section is dedicated to Crystal, a 15-year-old girl who is adopted by a couple named Karl and Thelma. Karl and Thelma, of course, do not come without their own issues. Karl's mission in life seems to be finding ways to save the most money, and Thelma is obsessed with soap operas, even seeing life itself as a soap opera. Nevertheless, Crystal is having a wonderful life with a nice home and friends at her new school. But all too soon tragedy strikes when her new grandmother dies. Shortly thereafter, Karl and Thelma went to sign papers to put her widowed grandfather in a retirement home, and Crystal got a call to go to her uncle's house. As soon as she saw his face, she knew the horrible news. ...

The third novella, "Brooke," started out with a sense of deja vu as it tells the story of another orphan who is adopted by wealthy parents. The father is wonderful and the mother is obsessed with turning her new daughter into a clone of herself. However, there are differences in that Brooke is more headstrong than Janet and handles stressful situations better. In addition, Brooke is not easily intimated and stands up for herself until the ending, which is just a little more dramatic than the ending in "Butterfly."

The final part, "Raven," is possibly the best. Raven's mother is a drug addict who has gotten herself into a great deal of legal trouble. Raven is sent to live with her Uncle Reuben and his family, but, as with all V.C. Andrews' books, life does not get any better. Her cousins make school unbearable, and she is beaten by her uncle. This part reads more like the V.C. Andrews that I remember from her earlier series. All in all, the series is good and, to a certain degree, can be related to many people's lives as sometimes parents force their children to follow the same career path or fulfill their unrealized dreams.

Michelle Barsom is a librarian at Bainbridge College -- Early County in Blakely. She received her master's of library and information studies degree from the University of Alabama.